| The Neveragaine Strikes Back
, Revenge of the Killer Ada
Feb 27 2011, 08:00 PM
Joined: 10-December 10
From: Flyin', Flyin' in the sky!
I don't believe I have commented on your stories yet, dear Helena, but I have read them all cover-to-cover, and all I can say is they are a pure gem of satire. You have an excellent sense of humor!
“Yes, well,” I said wearily. “Before we start the revenge, I guess I should make the standard disclaimer. I take it you’re aware that I’m the Nerevarine? Responsible for the deaths of various crime kingpins, Telvanni wizards and god-like entities?”
Look out, world! Fiery tempered redhead's on the loose!
“Is there ANYONE in this city who isn’t trying to kill me?”
Is there anyone in all of Tamriel who isn't trying to kill you, Ada? At the end of Morrowind's plot, you are hailed a savior and saint. Come the end of Tribunal... well, you may want to think mighty hard about that expedition to Akavir. I don't want to spoil the end because that's obviously your job, so that's all I will say on the matter.
I had a nit about a couple missing quote marks, but I lost the line. Woe be me...
Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning?Light through Darkness
Visit the Bethesda forums for my mods!
Apr 28 2011, 09:26 PM
Joined: 14-August 10
Chapter 6: A-Hunting We Shall Go
Calvus wanted to get some sleep before his evening bodyguard duties, so I spent the rest of the afternoon at the Bazaar, buying provisions and window-shopping. In one of the more up-market traders’ shops, I bought some imported Cyrodiilic goods as presents for the Sarethi family: a bottle of flin for Athyn, a tortoiseshell bowl for Domesea, and some fine doeskin gloves for Varvur. I briefly wondered if I should send a letter along with them: “Am enjoying the sights here in sunny Mournhold. Weather is fine, shame about all the people trying to kill me! Wish you were here, love Ada.”
The shop owner, Sunel Hlas, was well-dressed and polite but looked a bit depressed, and I asked him if business was going well. “Ah, fine,” he said with a sigh. “Azura knows there’s little else in the world worth doing. None of the rest of it matters... adventuring, fame, women. It’s all pointless.”
“There’s no happiness to be found – no lasting happiness, anyway. It’s all a sham. Oh, I didn’t always think so,” he added, as I opened my mouth to reply. “I had a wife once, and was madly in love with her. But then my foolishness took her away, and now here I am. Bitter, alone, and tired of life.”
Eeesh. “I’m… very sorry to hear that,” I said, a little startled. “Er, what happened to your wife?”
“The folly of youth,” he said with a sigh. “Had dreams, aspirations. I foolishly followed them, and took her to Vvardenfell for what was supposed to be a ‘great adventure’. I paid for my foolishness, paid in full – unfortunately, my wife was made to pay as well. She caught the Blight shortly after arriving, and her frail constitution couldn’t handle it. I lost her to the damned disease, and it ruined me.”
“Gods.” I didn’t know what to say. “How… how long ago did this happen?”
“A few years now.” He shook his head. “No one could replace her. None of the women I’ve ever known could ever replace her.”
“Really?” A sudden thought struck me. “Hmm…”
Hlas was looking at me through narrowed eyes. “What of it, Imperial? You think there’s anyone that could ever compare to my Dralasa?”
I hesitated for a moment, picturing Marena Gilnith in my mind’s eye. At first sight they certainly didn’t seem like an obvious match: the young, optimistic Marena and the middle-aged, embittered Sunel. On the other hand… he was wealthy and successful, and could offer her a comfortable home away from her life of drudgery. And the age gap might not matter as much to Dunmer; after all, they’d still have hundreds of years together.
“Possibly,” I said at last. “If… if I were able to arrange for you to meet her, would you do it?”
“Not sure. Who is she?”
“Marena Gilnith is her name.”
He screwed up his face. “I don’t know her. Don’t particularly care to either. But fine… if it will get you to leave me alone, then I’ll meet her. It’ll be a waste of time, though.”
Not quite the enthusiastic response I’d hoped for, but never mind. I’d see what Marena herself had to say about it.
Luckily it wasn’t difficult to find Marena; she was hanging around the Bazaar in the same spot where I’d met her for the first time. Her hopeful expression cut to my heart; she must have been coming there every day, hoping I’d found someone for her. I really didn’t want to have to disappoint her.
“Have you met someone, Ada?” she asked, looking a bit nervous all of a sudden. “I have to tell you up front that I’m very apprehensive about all this. I’m taking a big risk here, not to mention that I need to leave work for a bit. So you’d better be right about this.”
But no pressure or anything, right? Suddenly I felt almost as nervous as she was. “If you’ve found someone who’s all wrong for me, I’ll simply never forgive you,” she went on. “You sure you want to do this?”
By now I really wasn’t, but I owed it to Sunel to at least try. “Well, let me tell you a bit about him first,” I said hastily. “His name is Sunel Hlas and he owns one of the shops over there in the market. He’s a bit older than you,” I confessed, “but not elderly or disgusting or anything… anyway, you said you wanted someone worldly, and he definitely fits the bill. He’s travelled around all over the place.”
“Sunel Hlas, you say?” She paused. “Hmm... I think I’ve heard the name before, but can’t remember where.”
“There’s one more thing I should mention,” I said, bracing myself. “Sunel’s wife died of blight disease a while ago, and he’s… still rather sore about it. I think he’s ready to move on, but… I just thought I’d warn you so you’ll know to be a bit tactful with him. Okay?”
“Whew. Okay.” Marena shook her head. “I’m really trusting your judgment, Ada. Tell him to meet me at the Winged Guar two days from now. I do hope he’s nice...”
Feeling less confident every minute, I went back to tell Sunel the good news. Why the heck did I let myself get talked into setting up a blind date? I knew these things almost never worked out.
If Marena’s response had put me on edge, Sunel’s made me grind my teeth in frustration. “I don’t know why I’m even discussing this,” he muttered. “There’s no way this is going to work out. It’ll just end in heartbreak. Oh, very well, I’ll meet her.”
I looked at him in disbelief. “Why? If you’ve already decided it’s going to be a disaster, why even bother?”
“Don’t know.” He wouldn’t meet my eyes.
“Look, Sunel,” I said in exasperation, “couldn’t you at least try to be optimistic? For her sake, if not for yours? She’s taking a risk too, you know.” He said nothing. “Look at it this way: you’ve nothing to lose. If it doesn’t work out, you’ll be proved right; if it does, well, it could be the start of something really special. Either way, you win.”
He didn’t say anything, just stared mulishly at the floor. Heaving a weary sigh, I turned to leave, wanting to kick both him and myself. Oh well: if the date crashed and burned, which it probably would, at least the worst that could happen was that both of them would be a bit annoyed with me. You can’t win ’em all, I suppose.
When I got back to the Winged Guar in Godsreach, a Bosmer was pacing angrily up and down outside the door. “Damn that villainous, clay-brained Nord!” he snarled, as I passed. “I hate him! I swear by the teeth of Molag Bal himself I’ll have revenge on that corprus-licking ignoramus.”
I looked at him through narrowed eyes. “Can I help you?”
“Why, yes!” he exclaimed, and I instantly regretted my choice of words. “My name’s High-Pockets. I came in here for a drink, minding my own damned business, when that guar-loving drunkard Holmar started raving and making fun of me. He grabbed me by the shirt, slid me across the bar, and then kicked me out the door. He’ll be singing all of Saryoni’s Sermons at once when I’ve had my revenge!”
Having had first-hand experience of just how annoying male Wood Elves could be, I suspected this might not be the whole story. “And how do you plan to get your revenge?”
“Well, I’ll – I’ll…” He paused. “Listen, Imperial. How would you like to help me go in there and teach that flea-bitten, dampworm-infested Nord the lesson of his life?”
I winced; the last thing I needed today was to get into yet another fight. “Well, I’m not going to beat someone up just on your say-so,” I told him. “I’ll have a word with this Holmar, okay? But I’m not promising anything.”
“Fantastic!” He began to make for the door, and then hesitated. “Um… you’re bigger than me, so I’ll follow you. He’s right inside the bar there.”
I found Holmar the Nord on the upper floor of the tavern, swaying gently on his feet with a mug of sujamma clutched in his hand. He didn’t look capable of walking straight, let alone picking someone up and throwing them out of the bar, but I knew from experience that drunkards could be surprisingly strong. I wished I’d thought to put on my enchanted gauntlets before tackling him. I didn’t want to use a sword on an unarmed man, and I didn’t fancy my chances in a fistfight – even if he was blind drunk.
“Evening, Holmar,” I said, trying to appear tough but non-threatening. “My friend here says you’ve been bullying him.”
“Wha’s that?” He hiccupped several times. “Who… who’s there? Gimme another drink, you cockamamie bastar…” He blinked, and his eyes focussed on the little Bosmer. “Hey ... Hey, this mus’ be about that blasted Wood Elf I just tossed out of here, right? Hehehehe.”
High-Pockets shrank back as Holmar took a lurching step towards him. “Stupid little Wood Elves,” he muttered. “Back for another round, eh?”
I stepped between them before he could get any closer. “Hey, calm down,” I said, raising a hand soothingly, and quickly cast my Voice of the Emperor power on him. “No need to get nasty, OK? How about you leave my friend alone, and I buy you another drink?”
To my relief, it worked. Holmar’s bleary eyes swung away from High-Pockets’ face and towards mine. “Wha?” he murmured, and then his face lit up as the word ‘drink’ filtered through to his brain. “Well, ’m not one to turn down a drink. Barkeep! Gimme two more s’jammas, now! I like one in each hand.”
I paid over the extortionate price of sixty septims, and we both watched Holmar gulp down the two sujammas. I guessed that another drink or two would be enough to wipe him out, and I was right. As he drained the last few drops from his tankard, a glazed expression came over his eyes and he slowly keeled over, hitting the floor with a satisfying thud.
High-Pockets let out a yelp of delight. “Yes! I’d have liked to bash his kwama-cuttle-infested head in, but I have to hand it to you. That was some smooth handling.” He fumbled around in one of his many pockets. “I don’t have much to give in thanks, but here, take this money.”
He dropped a handful of coins into my hands – to my surprise, rather more than I’d spent on the drinks – along with yet another enchanted ring. I felt a bit guilty about taking a reward from him when I’d hardly even done anything. “That’s OK, I don’t – ”
But he was already heading off towards the bar. I turned back to see Hession, the owner of the tavern, looking in my direction.
“Nicely handled,” she said approvingly. (I think that’s quite possibly the first approving look I’ve ever had from a High Elf.) “You dealt with that very well. Might you be interested in helping me with some work I need taken care of?”
“Hmph.” It was getting late, and I was tired and hungry. “What sort of work?”
“Well, you see, my usual bouncer Grub didn’t show today.” She pursed her lips in annoyance. “Probably got lost in the Pavilion again, the Orcish ninny. Anyway, would you be willing to stand in for him? All you would have to do is make one sweep through the bar crowd. If memory serves, we don’t get too many people coming and going this time of day.”
I’d never worked as a bouncer before. Most of them tend to be hefty, muscle-bound Nords and Orcs – if you can intimidate people with your sheer size, you’re halfway there already. “What will you pay me?” I asked, too tired to bother dancing around the subject.
“A thousand gold, if you handle it well. And a meal and drink on the house,” she added, correctly guessing what was more important to me right now.
Pretty good pay for one evening’s work, I had to say. Even with the wealth I had now, a thousand gold wasn’t to be sniffed at. “Okay, I’ll do it,” I said recklessly.
“Fantastic! Here’s all you have to do: Go around and talk to everyone in the bar. If they’re too drunk, or unruly, or just a bad character, throw them out. Report to me when you’re done.”
Reluctantly I began a slow tour of the bar, looking out for potential troublemakers. Most people seemed to be behaving themselves well enough, but one guy in particular drew my eye – another Bosmer, funnily enough. He was standing in the middle of the room with a black scowl on his face, rambling loudly about ‘foreigners’ to no one in particular, and swearing viciously at anyone who passed too close to him. My heart sank – this guy showed all the signs of being about to turn nasty, and if that happened, I’d already used up my Mr. Nice Guy option.
I approached him cautiously. “Everything all right, sir?”
With some effort, the man focussed his rather glazed eyes on my face. “Hey, hey, watch it there.” He hiccupped loudly. “Why’re you harass…harass…harassin’ me? I ain’t done nothing to you. *Hic!*”
“I’m not harassing you, sir, just – ”
“Damn you, you dirty Imperial!” he snarled, before I could finish. “Always…. *hic!* …always causing problems.”
Uh-oh, this wasn’t going well. “I’m not the one causing problems, sir,” I said mildly. “I think you should calm down a bit.”
This just made things worse. The Bosmer shoved his face up close to mine – well, as close as he could get given that he barely came up to my shoulder. “Not for the likes of a dirty Imperial like you, you… you… bubble-faced puke!” he spat, giving me a whiff of breath that smelled like Oblivion’s brewery. “I can say whatever I want to say, and nobody can stop me. NOBODY!”
I kept my cool. “Sir, you’ve had quite enough. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“No, I’m not coming with you, you dirty Imperial!” He wrenched away from my grasp as I laid a hand on his arm. “Who knows what revolting tricks you’ll pull when we’re alone… *hic!* GET AWAY FROM ME!”
Before I could react he had lashed out suddenly with one of his small fists, hitting me square on the nose. I have to say, for such a little guy he packed quite a punch. I backed off a couple of steps, momentarily stunned, and he ran at me with fists flying. “You won’t take me in… you CAN’T! Victory or… VICTORY!!”
This time I managed to dodge the clumsy blow and grabbed him by the collar, shoving him back into a wall. Behind me, Hession the bar owner let out a shriek. “Please don’t kill anyone! Knock him out if you must, but don’t kill him!”
I’d no intention of killing anyone, but what stumped me was how to deal with the guy without hurting him too badly. I really really didn’t want a repeat of that night on the road near Cheydinal, and this man was a lot smaller than the one I’d accidentally killed. I tried casting my Star of the West spell, and he staggered heavily but didn’t fall. Gods, this little guy was tough!
As he started to beat at my chest with his fists, I grabbed his arms with both hands to hold him back and kneed him hard in the groin. He let out a wail of anguish and sank to the ground, whimpering, as the spell finally did its work.
I tasted blood on my lip, and realised that it was trickling down from my nose. Sighing, I cast a quick healing spell and cleaned myself off as best I could with a rag from the bar. As Hession sighed with relief, and a couple of other patrons carried off the unconscious Wood Elf, a Breton barmaid sidled up to me.
“Are you filling in for Grub?” I nodded. “Could you do anything about Galms Seles? He’s a hustler just moved here from Vvardenfell. He thinks he can out-distance his reputation, but a friend in Sadrith Mora tipped me off. I wish he would leave – he’s put a damper on the action.”
I followed her gaze to the nondescript Dark Elf sitting at a nearby table. “Okay, I’ll see what I can do.”
As I walked up to Seles, he gave me what I guessed was his most charming smile. “Hello there, Imperial. Up for a game of shells?” He indicated some pieces of shell on the table in front of him. “I’ll put this coin under one of these three mudcrab shell pieces I have here, and then mix them up – ”
Gods. I can’t believe people still fall for that old trick. “I know how it works,” I interrupted him, “and I know how you make sure nobody ever wins that bet. People here are on to you, Seles. You’d better clean up your act before you end up like our Bosmer friend back there.”
His face paled. “Damn! Who told you? C’mon, buddy, don’t be too hard on me – I was just trying to make a few extra gold!” I narrowed my eyes. “Look, if you let me stay, I promise I’ll give everyone fair odds. If anyone complains of me cheating, they can tell Hession and I’ll be out of here in an instant. Okay?”
I doubted I could trust him to keep that promise, but I couldn’t really be bothered to take it any further. I couldn’t help thinking people had only themselves to blame if they let themselves be fooled so easily. “Make sure you do,” I said, fixing him with my sternest glare. “I’ll be back to check.”
I did another quick round of the bar to make sure no one else was causing any problems, then spoke the barmaid to check on Galms Seles. It seemed that he was behaving himself, at least as long as I was nearby. Satisfied, I went back to Hession to claim my reward.
“Fantastic!” she exclaimed, once I’d given her a run-down of the situation. “Grub couldn’t have done it better himself. Here’s your payment – and thank you.”
She hurried to the bar to order my free meal and drink from Ra’Tesh the bartender, then left me to enjoy it in peace. I wolfed it all down as quickly as I could and then went back to my room, where Calvus was just waking up. “There you are,” he said, stifling a yawn. “Been having fun?”
“You could say that. I set up a blind date and filled in for a missing bouncer.”
“Oh? You do get around, don’t you?” He yawned again. “Okay, I guess I’m back on sentry duty. Sleep tight.”
I have to say that I felt a lot safer with him guarding the door – though no one tried to attack me that night either. I still wasn’t willing to let my guard down, but it looked like Helseth might have given up, at least for the moment.
The next morning I went back to the Ebonheart Council Chambers to find Llerar Mandas. I gave him the presents I’d bought for the Sarethis and asked him to have them couriered to Ald’ruhn as soon as possible, telling him they were important documents. I think he might have wondered why the ‘important documents’ were gift-wrapped, but he didn’t say anything.
I planned to take up the Goblin Hunt again that day, but first I wanted to do some research and find out where they actually were. This was easier said than done, however – I couldn’t just walk up to someone in the street and go “Seen any goblins lately, mate?” Instead I had to try and strike up conversations with shopkeepers, guards and street cleaners, and find a way to bring up the subject without seeming suspicious.
A lot of people had heard the rumours about goblins in the city, but none of them seemed to have any idea where they might be. I was about to give up when I ran into a shabby-looking, barefoot Nord man near the Winged Guar. He smiled at me, his expression friendly but rather vacant. “Hello, nice lady!”
“Hello,” I said cautiously, suspecting that he was a beggar.
“You see Dilborn?” he went on. “Dilborn my friend! Dilborn gone three days now, and Thrud sad.”
I guessed from this little speech that the Nord’s name was Thrud, and that he was a few icicles short of a glacier, if you know what I mean. “No, I haven’t seen your friend Dilborn,” I said, speaking slowly and clearly to make sure he understood. “What does he look like?”
Thrud’s face lit up. “Dilborn big and mighty wizard! Dilborn read books to Thrud… all the words, big words, two, maybe three times. Now Dilborn gone, no one read books to Thrud.”
He looked so sad that I couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. Quite the gentle giant, clearly – despite the ebony war axe strapped to his back. “Where did you lose Dilborn, Thrud?”
Thrud thought for a moment. “Thrud see Dilborn go down in sewers near here. Dilborn go to sewers lots to meet friends, Dilborn says. Most times, Dilborn back soon, and happy, happy. But Dilborn not back soon now.” He paused, fixing hopeful puppy-dog eyes on my face. “You help Thrud find Dilborn?”
Oh gods, not again. I don’t want to sound heartless, but this was getting ridiculous. I was about to tell him that I really didn’t have time to search for his friend, when suddenly an idea came to me. “Thrud, did you see any goblins down in the sewers? You know, goblins? Ugly little green things with sharp teeth and pointy ears?”
The big Nord pondered this for a long time, literally about half a minute. I could practically see the cog-wheels slowly grinding around in his brain. “Yes, goblins in sewers,” he said at last. “But Dilborn say we stay away from goblins. Goblins VERY nasty.”
“The goblins are here in Godsreach? Underneath these houses?”
He hesitated, then nodded. “Okay Thrud,” I said, still speaking as slowly as possible. “I will help you find your friend Dilborn, if you show me where the goblins are. Okay?” He nodded again. “I’m just going to find my friend Calvus, then I’ll come back and we’ll look for Dilborn. All right?”
I left the cheerful-looking Thrud nodding enthusiastically and hurried back into the Winged Guar to wake up Calvus. “I’ve found out where the goblins are.”
“Oh? Good.” He didn’t look hugely enthusiastic, I have to say. “So we’re going after them now, are we?”
“Soon. First we’re going to rescue a missing wizard.”
Caius raised his eyebrows, but said nothing. I think he was getting used to my habit of doing unnecessary favours for random strangers. We took some time to eat and prepare our weapons and equipment, then went back outside the Winged Guar, where a much more cheerful-looking Thrud was waiting patiently for us. When he saw me, a huge grin spread over his face.
“Thrud happy, happy, nice lady.” He waved his axe enthusiastically in the air, making both of us instinctively shrink back a little. “Find Dilborn now, yes?”
“Yes, we’ll find him now. Can you show us the way, Thrud?”
Thrud led the way to the sewers, singing loudly and tunelessly as he went along. “I hope he’s not dangerous,” Calvus muttered behind his back.
“I doubt it.” Even so, I had to hope that Thrud’s friend Dilborn was still alive and well, or the scene that followed wouldn’t be pretty. I hated to think what would happen if we found his remains in a goblin’s stew-pot.
The Godsreach sewers looked pretty much like the ones in other parts of the city, with dank passages half-blocked by the occasional rock fall. We hadn’t gone very far before we heard voices in the distance. “Hold up,” I said to the other two. “I’m going ahead to scout out the place. Thrud, you must be very quiet, okay? Shhh.”
I slipped on the Amulet of Shadows and hurried out into the sewer intersection, leaving the others in the shelter of a large boulder. Behind a rusty grate, I could see three figures: some tough-looking Dunmer and a scrawny Breton with slave bracers on his arms. He was completely naked and flanked on both sides by two of the men, who were clearly guarding him. Could this be the ‘big and mighty wizard’ Thrud had described?
I slipped back behind the boulder and pulled off the amulet. “Thrud, what does Dilborn look like?” I whispered. “A Breton man, about this high, shoulder-length brown hair?” He nodded. “Well, he’s here in the sewers. Some bad men are holding him prisoner.”
Thrud let out a low, rumbling growl, and reached for his axe. “No!” I whispered urgently. “If you just run out there and attack them, they might hurt Dilborn.” He hesitated, and I beckoned him and Calvus towards me. “Okay, I think I have a plan. Listen very carefully to what I want you to do…”
I had to explain the plan three times over before Thrud understood it, but eventually he got the idea. I handed the Amulet of Shadows to Calvus, who slipped it on and disappeared into the intersection. Thrud and I followed, weapons at the ready, walking slowly along in plain sight of the Dunmer until we were close enough to speak to them. The nearest of the three – a wiry, tattooed man wearing glass boots and bracers – stepped forward to greet us.
“Well, well, look what the scrib dragged in.” His gaze flickered from me to Thrud, and back again. “Drathas Neras, at your service. I suppose you’re here to rescue our little Dilborn, eh? Then I suggest you don’t make any sudden moves. You see, when people owe me money, I get a bit touchy.”
“And I take it Dilborn here owes you money?”
“That’s right. We indulge in a bit of gambling down here from time to time – away from the prying eyes of the guards, you know? And Dilborn is one of our best customers.” His lips twisted into a mirthless grin. “Attack me, and my men have orders to kill Dilborn first – poor, naked, defenceless Dilborn. But if you’re here to settle Dilborn’s debts… well, we may be able to work something out.”
I sighed. “Okay, let’s not beat about the bush. How much does he owe you?”
“He currently owes… if my memory serves me right… yes, 3,000 septims. And he’s not leaving here until he pays his debts.”
“Well, I’m not paying you 3,000 for that idiot.” Beside me, Thrud let out a grunt of protest. “Shut up, Thrud. Okay Neras, make it 1,000 and you might have a deal.”
Neras’ smile grew even nastier. “I really don’t think you’re in any position to negotiate, Imperial. Remember, any sudden moves on your part and Dilborn dies instantly.”
“Look behind you,” I said. His eyes narrowed slightly and he half-turned towards his guards, making sure to keep both me and Thrud in sight.
Under cover of the amulet’s Chameleon spell, Calvus had snuck up behind the two men guarding Dilborn, and paralysed them by just pricking their skin with the tip of his glass jinkblade – the one he’d ‘liberated’ from the wizard Gavis Velas. After that he had dropped one of them to the ground with his own Star of the West spell, and pressed the tip of his blade right up against the other’s throat. Drathas swallowed hard and turned back towards me, an expression of baffled rage on his face.
“Still sure you don’t want to settle?” I asked. “Look at it this way: at least you’ll get some money rather than none. And you’ll be alive, of course.”
Neras ground his teeth, but he had enough sense to know he was beaten. “All right,” he said at last. “But only because I can’t abide his constant whining. Give me the money, and I’ll let him go.”
It was a good thing I still had that thousand given to me by Hession, I thought, as I counted out the money. I wouldn’t have liked to leave Drathas here with only Thrud as a guard.
“All right, he can go,” he said, once he’d counted the money I’d given him. “Alam, remove his bracers.” Calvus had released the second guard, having put his weapon well out of reach, but he was still watching him like a hawk with his blade at the ready.
The guard unlocked Dilborn’s bracers, and he slowly backed away from his captors, keeping as far away from Neras as possible. As he edged nervously round to join us, Thrud let out a cry of joy. “Dilborn back! Dilborn back!”
“Oh, shut up, you witless man-child.” Neras turned towards Dilborn. “Dilborn, never show your face to me again, or I’ll slice it off with a rusty spoon, you hear me? Now get lost, all of you.”
We left, making sure the thugs weren’t following us. Once we were safely out of the sewers, Thrud practically fell on me, enveloping me in a huge bear-hug. “Thank you, thank you, thank you! Thrud happy, Dilborn happy, ALL happy!”
“That’s… okay… Thrud,” I wheezed, hoping my ribs weren’t broken. “You can let go now.”
Dilborn gave me a rather embarrassed smile. “Thank you, Imperial – I am in your debt. Alas, in my present financially embarrassed condition, it is a debt I cannot repay. I fear that, under the circumstances, your own virtue must be sufficient reward.”
I was about to speak when Thrud, who had been scrabbling about in the large pouch on his belt, thrust a dog-eared book into my hands. “Here, Ada. Take Thrud’s favourite book. It is very good… many words… on both sides of pages.”
“Thank you, Thrud,” I said, trying to keep a straight face. “Dilborn, Calvus and I are looking for goblins in the sewers. Do you know where to find them?”
After Dilborn had helpfully explained – even drawing a rough map showing the layout of the sewers – Calvus and I set out once again on our goblin hunt. When we entered the western part of the sewers, we were faced with a choice of two passageways: one wide and well-lit, the other dark, narrow and twisty. “What do you think?” I asked Calvus. “Which way?”
He thought for a moment. “Let’s try the cave. At least there’ll be more cover.”
He was right about that, as it turned out; unfortunately there was also a half-flooded cavern with a waterfall. By the time we’d waded through, we were so soaked with spray that we had to stop and dry ourselves off. There was no sign of the goblins so far, but I couldn’t help feeling glad about that.
A short way on we found ourselves back in the main part of the sewers. Just where the cave widened into the sewer passage, behind some huge stalagmites, we came across an heavily-armoured Nord man sitting on a bedroll. When he saw us he leapt up with an exclamation, hefting a massive warhammer in our direction.
“Hold it!” I took a step backwards, lowering my sword slightly. “We’re not here to fight.”
The man eyed us suspiciously, still grasping his hammer. “What do you want?”
“We’re just here to hunt goblins.” I glanced around at the Nord’s makeshift bedroom, which was scattered with empty bottles and bits of old food. “What are you doing here?”
He scowled, but lowered his weapon slightly. “I’m Hloggar the Bloody, and what I do here is my business.”
“Okay, fine. You leave us alone and we’ll leave you alone, all right?” He nodded, and stood aside to let us pass. Then, without the slightest warning, the roars started.
“Sh*t!” Hloggar’s head snapped round. “They’re coming – ” He got no further, because two goblins and a war durzog were barrelling down the passage towards us.
Now the goblins I’d fought in Cyrodiil were fairly tame opponents – nasty, but nothing to strike fear into the heart of an experienced warrior. These were different. These ones were huge and muscle-bound, more like Orcs. Even with one of us matched against each of them, and Hloggar fighting the durzog – like an attack dog, only twice as big and twice as mean – that battle was a damn close call. The goblins weren’t exactly skilled fighters, but they were so bloody tough – no matter how many times you hit them, they just refused to go down.
When all three were finally vanquished, the three of us retreated to lick our wounds, bruised and battered. “Phew.” Hoggar wiped away the sweat that was streaming from his brow. “Wasn’t expecting that. Guess I should think myself lucky you guys were here.”
Calvus and I said nothing, but exchanged worried glances. It looked like this goblin hunt was going to be rather tougher than we had thought.
Sep 21 2011, 06:15 PM
Joined: 14-August 10
Finally, another chapter! It's been quite a while, so I'll briefly recap: Ada is working for the Temple against King Helseth. She's been asked to destroy a goblin army which Helseth is training in the Mournhold sewers. Down in the sewers, she and her bodyguard Calvus encountered a shady Nord named Hloggar the Bloody, and fought off an attack by goblins - which seem to be a lot tougher than the Cyrodiil variety...
Chapter 7: Gobliiins
The goblin attack led to a slight thaw in relations between us and ‘Hloggar the Bloody’ (bet he didn’t get teased much as a kid). We were still wary of each other, but when he gruffly offered me and Calvus a drink, neither of us felt like refusing. The home-brew he served us was as thick as syrup and tasted vile, but at least it was strong enough to fortify us for what lay ahead.
“Wasn’t expecting to see the greenskins here,” he confided, swigging the disgusting ale from his flask as if it were iced lemonade. “They don’t usually come down this far. Might have to move on before they start making a habit of it.”
I suppressed the urge to ask, for the second time, what the heck he was doing down here. “Do you think… I began,” then hesitated. “Have you seen any signs that someone may be… training them?”
Hloggar spluttered. “Training? Are you mad? You can’t train those things, they’re just mindless animals. Get too close to ’em without a weapon and they’ll bite your hand off.”
At one time I’d have agreed with him, but now I wasn’t quite so sure. Goblins might be vicious little beasts, and they might not speak any language the ‘civilised’ races could understand, but… I couldn’t help thinking of the goblin lairs I’d seen back in Cyrodiil. They were a bit ‘rough-and-ready’, but they’d been filled with all the things you’d expect to find in a human settlement – beds, tables, cooking utensils. Could a race which wore clothes, used tools and weapons, and kept pets really be described as ‘mindless animals’? Weren’t people saying the same thing about the Orcs just a few decades ago?
Anyway, this wasn’t exactly the time or place for philosophising. Instead we did what any good adventurer does before a mission: drank a lot, told lewd jokes and sang bawdy songs. Hloggar had one about a ‘virtuous’ maiden who fell in love with a goblin:
“His scaly face with grimy sheen
With fangs so sharp, and skin so green
Was the finest thing she e’er had seen – ”
Just then we heard a loud noise off in the distance, and we all shut up really quickly. You never knew when the goblins might be back with reinforcements.
At this point, Calvus and I decided it was time we made a move. I asked Hloggar how big he though this sewer was. “Huge,” he said bluntly. “Miles and miles of it. If you go in there, make sure you can find your way out again.”
Hmm, good point. I always carried my Divine and Almsivi Intervention amulets in any case, as well as a few scrolls, but I decided we’d better stop every now and then to plot out the route we had travelled.
A little further on from where the goblins had attacked, we arrived at a ‘crossroads’ leading in three directions. According to Dilborn’s hastily sketched map, one of them led back to the trapdoor where we’d entered this sewer section. The second led to the sewers under the Palace, and the third to the ruins of an ancient battlefield. “What do you think?” I asked Calvus. “Surely even Helseth wouldn’t be crazy enough to train up goblin hordes under his own palace!”
“Hmm. I wouldn’t entirely put it past him.” He jabbed at the third route. “Still, let’s try this way first.”
We ran across a couple more goblins as we made our way through the sewers, but these ones were alone, and much easier to draw out and kill than the patrol we’d met earlier. (I only hoped my rather fragile glass longsword would hold out without breaking.)
A short way past the connecting door into the battlefield area, the sewers gave way to another cavern system. The odd goblin encounter gave me confidence that we were going the right way. At last, at the end of a long, twisty passageway, the cavern widened abruptly into a massive underground arena, almost as big as the Plaza Brindisi Dorom. Goblins scurried to and fro on the ground below, at the foot of a long flight of stone steps.
“Wow,” I whispered. “Where now?” On the other side of the arena was some sort of stone pavilion on top of a raised plinth; it looked interesting but didn’t appear to lead anywhere. To the right of us was a small wooden door set into the wall of the cavern, several feet off the ground on a stone platform. As far as I could see it was the only way out of this place.
“That way, I guess.” Calvus began to inch his way out of cover towards the steps. I nodded, and was about to follow him when I suddenly spotted something else. “Wait!”
“Look up there.” I pointed up towards the roof of the cavern, far above the pavilion. There, fifty or sixty feet above us, was another stone platform. “I wonder where that leads to?”
“We’ll never get up there anyway. Levitation is banned in Mournhold.” I gaped at him. “Something to do with the goddess Almalexia. She doesn’t want anyone to be higher than her, or something like that. They’ve surrounded the whole place with some magic field that counteracts Levitation enchantments.”
I gaped even harder. “You’re kidding. What, even in the sewers?”
“Hmm… good point.” He paused. “I’m not entirely sure.”
“Well, I’m going to try anyway.” I opened my pack and took out my Levitation amulet, then dug around a little to find Peakstar’s old pants. “Here, put these on. If I find anything interesting up there, you can use them to follow me.”
His eyes narrowed. “So you get the amulet, and I have to use the thirty-year-old pair of women’s pants?”
“Well, you’re free to pay for the expedition next time.” He shut up.
I slipped the amulet over my head, cast the enchantment – it seemed to work fine down here – and began to levitate up towards the platform. The goblins pointed and jabbered as I floated across the arena, but they couldn’t reach me. When I reached the top, I realised my hunch had been right – there was another door up here. I turned back towards the small figure on the other side of the cave, and waved as hard as I could.
A minute later I was joined by a scowling Calvus. He did look deliciously silly in those pants, I have to say. “Stylish,” I said, nodding approvingly, and he looked as if he’d like to strangle me. “So, shall we proceed?”
“Okay.” He cast a backward glance at the cavern entrance, far below us. “I just hope we have enough of those enchantments to get back again.”
Unfortunately, if we’d thought we could avoid having to do much fighting this way, we were very wrong. The narrow, rock-strewn passage leading to the goblins’ lair was more heavily guarded than anywhere we’d been so far. The first thing we encountered was a heavy-set goblin patrolling with a durzog, and no sooner were they both defeated (with great difficulty), then another one came barrelling up to us from further along the passage. Calvus’ leg had been injured by a durzog bite, so I had to finish off the second goblin while he healed himself. By now we were both exhausted, and our weapons and armour badly needed repair.
“We need to stop and rest for a while,” I said. Calvus agreed, so we retreated to the ledge at the top of the arena and set up a makeshift camp. It was very narrow and there was barely enough room to sit down, let alone start a fire (not that we had any wood anyway) or set out bedrolls. “Take off your pants,” I told Calvus, as he glugged a stamina potion.
He just looked at me. “So that I can mend them,” I said in exasperation.
He did as I said, probably a bit relieved to be rid of them. Whilst I tried to darn the tear in Peakstar’s scuzzy pants – now decorated with extra bloodstains – he did the best he could with armourer’s hammers. At last, once we’d rested, eaten and repaired as much as we could, we braved the passageway once again.
A little way in we found a small alcove containing some useful loot, including restoration potions and enchanted arrows. Further along were more goblin guards, amidst a bunch of old ruins that looked dangerously close to collapsing on top of us. When we finally reached the heavy stone door at the end of the passage, I wasn’t sure whether to feel relief or dread.
But the moment we got through the door, I stopped feeling either of those things because I was too busy coughing and choking. Whoever lived here had clearly gone to the Morag Tong School of Interior Decoration: lots of eerie hanging lights that glowed an evil-looking red and billowed clouds of smoke all over the place. Our coughs and splutters naturally attracted the attention of nearby goblins, and we had to fight them while trying desperately to keep our lungs intact. This was definitely turning into one of those ‘never again’ missions.
Once we could breathe again and the goblins had been dealt with, Calvus and I started to explore this new building. It looked like the remains of an old Indoril manor, a little like the one in the Dark Brotherhood lair. There wasn’t much furniture left, but a few books had been left lying around on benches and shelves, so clearly someone in this place was intelligent and literate.
What puzzled me and Calvus was that we could still hear goblin grunts and footsteps from somewhere in the building, even though no goblins were visible. The sounds died away in some parts of the building, and grew louder in others. “We must be getting closer,” I whispered to Calvus, as we crept down one of the corridors. “Hang on, sounds like they’re somewhere down belo-”
At that moment the ground gave way beneath me. For a second I teetered on the edge of a massive hole in the manor floor, one foot on solid ground, the other hovering over thin air. Just as I began to topple forward, I felt Calvus grab me around the waist from behind. Time slowed to a crawl as it seemed that both of us might go over; finally, Calvus’ weight tipped the balance and he fell backwards in a heap, with me on top of him.
Both of us sat there gasping for breath, more than a little shaken. “Oof,” I muttered.
“Oof,” Calvus agreed.
His arms were still clasped tightly around my waist. It wasn’t a wholly unpleasant feeling, and I might have been happy to stay there for a while if it hadn’t been for… other considerations. “Er, Calvus…”
“Oops. Sorry.” He released me from his grasp, sounding a bit embarrassed.
I crawled forward and peered over the edge of the hole I’d nearly fallen through. It was a long way down, and I could see goblins wandering around on the floor below. If the fall itself hadn’t killed me, no doubt they’d have happily finished me off.
“That was a trap.” I turned back to Calvus. “Someone set that deliberately, and no way was it the goblins.”
He frowned. “You think there’s anything in this theory of the Altmer trainers?”
“I don’t know, but there’s definitely someone running this operation.” I hauled myself to my feet. “Thanks, by the way. I’d have hurt more than my pride if I fell down there.”
“No problem.” He seemed reluctant to meet my eye for some reason. “So, what now? Do we try to find a way down?”
I shuddered. “Let’s just look for a way out. If there’s anything important down there, there has to be another way to reach it.”
We managed to locate the exit, which led us into another of those old residential areas, buried underground since the First Era. Fragments of walls, columns and balconies were still standing amongst the piles of fallen rock. One of the buildings in the distance was relatively intact, with what looked like a serviceable door. I had a pretty good idea of what was inside there – more goblins – but it wasn’t like there was anywhere else to go.
Calvus and I crept along the ancient ‘street’, keeping close to the ground to avoid being seen by the goblins we could hear in the distance, and finally reached the door. Inside we found ourselves in another long corridor belonging to some ancient mansion – this one, luckily, free of those horrible smoky lights. If only it had been free of goblins as well.
By the time we’d fought off another couple of green-skinned bruisers, Calvus and I were feeling seriously exhausted. We were on the point of deciding to just go home for the night, and come back tomorrow when we were feeling more refreshed. Just as we were debating this, we heard a sudden clatter in the distance – followed by a very un-goblin-like voice swearing in Tamrielic.
“Crap.” I turned to Calvus. “That wasn’t a goblin.”
“Damn right. You got any charge left on that invisibility amulet?”
I examined my Amulet of Shadows. It was good for a couple more uses, but after that it would need time to recharge. I wished I’d thought to buy some filled soul gems before we came down here.
With the help of the Amulet, I set out on a quick recon mission. It didn’t take long to find our targets – not one but two High Elves, standing guard in a small room near the back of the mansion. They were standing up, facing right in my direction, and clearly on high alert – they must have our scuffles with the goblins a few minutes back.
Now your average Altmer is at least a foot taller than your average human, but makes up for it by being skinny and generally fragile. Not these ones. These guys had muscles that would have been fairly impressive on an Orc. One of them was dressed in Orcish armour and packed a hefty war axe; the other had some kind of longsword strapped to his belt. I was not looking forward to fighting them, especially if they had your typical Altmer’s skill in magic.
After making a note of their position, I hot-footed it back to Calvus. “So,” I said. “Two massive Altmer, facing right this way, armed to the teeth. What do you suggest?”
“Um… Bring reinforcements?”
We exchanged a rueful glance. “Not much chance of that,” I said, stating the obvious. “Unless we want to trek back to the entrance and try to get Hloggar to sober up for a few minutes. I don’t suppose there’s any chance we might be able to reason with them?”
We both knew the answer. I guess there could have been some entirely innocent reason why they were hiding out in a sewer under the royal palace, training up an army of homicidal goblins… but let’s face it, it wasn’t very likely. Certainly not enough to make it worth giving them the benefit of the doubt.
After a very quick discussion, we decided to try the same tactic we’d used against Dilborn’s kidnappers earlier that day – only this time we couldn’t risk leaving the men alive. Firstly Calvus, using my Chameleon amulet, snuck up behind the Altmer and paralysed them both by pricking them with his jinkblade. With very little time left before the spell wore off, we hurriedly unbuckled their armour and stabbed them in the heart as they stood frozen and defenceless. It was quick and relatively clean, but it left a nasty taste in the mouth.
As I lowered my victim to the ground, closing his blank, staring eyes so that I didn’t have to look at his expression, Calvus began to examine the other man’s body. “Look at this, Ada,” he said suddenly. I turned to see him drawing the dead man’s weapon from its scabbard – a fine ebony longsword. My breath caught.
I took the ebony blade from Calvus, turning it over in my hands. It was an incredibly beautiful weapon, the kind I’d always dreamed of owning. What was more, it was a very powerful one – more than deadly enough to make up for the extra weight and lack of enchantment. I glanced from the Altmer’s lifeless body to the tiny fractures which were starting to appear in my own glass blade, and sighed.
For the second time that day, necessity trumped honour. As I buckled the ebony longsword around my waist, I could only hope that the Altmer’s spirit was safely in Oblivion and didn’t have any unfinished business.
Calvus took the dead man’s Orcish tower shield for himself – fair’s fair, after all – and straightened up. “So, the trainers are dead. Is that it? We can go home now?”
“Hang on a moment.” I fished my journal out of my bag. “Hler said something about warchiefs… yes, two goblin warchiefs. As well as the trainers.”
“Oh, gods. Well, if they’re not here, where are they?”
There was a long silence. “Let’s just get some rest, shall we?” I said at last. “We’ll have more energy to hunt down the warchiefs tomorrow.”
Since neither of us wanted to spend the night with two corpses in a room that stank of fresh blood, we had to look for another campsite. A small room down the corridor had a bedroll set up – dirty, and stinking of goblin – and was easily defensible. We agreed to bed down here and take it in turns to watch as the other slept. I was supposed to go first, but for some reason, sleep just wouldn’t come.
“Something up?” Calvus asked, after watching me toss and turn for a while.
“I…” I hesitated. “You ever hear the story about a warrior who died, and when his spirit crossed over into Oblivion, he found all these other souls waiting for him? Of the people he’d killed in his lifetime?”
Calvus gave me a long, sideways look. “Don’t tell me you’re feeling guilty about killing those Altmer bastards. They were training goblins, for crying out loud.”
Calvus sighed. “You Nibenese think too much. You start letting yourself worry about these things, one of these days you’re going to freeze up in battle, and the other guy will slit your throat. And he won’t feel guilty, I can tell you that.”
I couldn’t help smiling at the first part of this. It was certainly the first time anyone had ever accused me of ‘thinking too much’. But while he had a point, I just couldn’t bring myself to feel comfortable with killing people in cold blood. If I started to think like that, I might as well join the Dark Brotherhood.
Suddenly I found myself badly wishing that Varvur were here. He’d have understood, and even if he didn’t agree, he wouldn’t have made fun of me for saying those things. I might sometimes tease him about his Redoran stuffiness, but there were times when it was good to have someone around who took you seriously. Gods, I missed him – and not just for the obvious reasons.
I dreamed of him after I fell asleep, but it wasn’t a happy, loving dream. He was yelling at me, and brandishing a book – the journal I’d left for him to read in Bal Isra.
“You lied to me!” he was shouting. “Again! You weren’t just a Blade, you were a spy for the Hlaalu!”
Since this was pretty much true, I couldn’t exactly deny it. Varvur took a step towards me, his face twisted with rage. “You stole a skull from a Dunmer tomb to give to a NECROMANCER? You impersonated a DEAD REDORAN so you could STEAL NEMINDA’S ORDERS?!!”
At that moment I woke up, gasping. Oh sweet Mara, what an idiot I’d been! Why hadn’t I remembered there was so much incriminating stuff in that journal? I’d hoped it would help him to understand why I’d worked for the Blades – but when he’d finished reading about everything else I’d done, he’d probably be ready to carve me into pieces. Maybe he already had. Maybe he already was.
“You OK?” Calvus asked, seeing me staring blankly at the wall.
“Uh. Yeah.” I tried to collect my thoughts. “Bad dream, that’s all. Guess it’s your turn now.”
He settled down on the bedroll without further comment. The next few hours seemed to last forever. I couldn’t stop thinking about the dream, or imagining what Varvur might be doing and thinking right now. By the time Calvus woke up, I was feeling almost as tired as I had before I went to sleep.
“Come on then,” I said wearily, after we’d eaten and equipped ourselves. “Let’s get this over with. Hopefully the warchiefs aren’t too far from here.”
Outside in the underground ‘streets’, we found more goblins milling around. I managed to take out a couple with enchanted arrows which I’d sensibly bought before the mission, but the others came charging at us and we had to fight hand-to-hand. It didn’t help that I wasn’t exactly on top form. Azura’s ring kept my strength up, but I wasn’t concentrating very well, and at one point I narrowly avoided slicing through Calvus’ neck with a clumsy sword-stroke.
After fighting our way through more twisty passages, we found ourselves back in a sewer area with two exits. Choosing the nearest one took us into another cave system, this one with waterfalls gushing from some kind of underground stream. It would have been quite nice to look at if we’d had the time.
“This area is called the ‘Tears of Amun-Shae’,” Calvus said, consulting his map.
“Any mention of goblin reserves here?”
“Nope.” He folded the map. “But unless I’m imagining things, these guys are getting tougher. I’m guessing we’re close to finding the leaders now.”
He was more right than he ever thought. Within less than a minute of walking through, we rounded a corner and found ourselves facing the biggest, toughest, meanest-looking goblin I’d ever seen. The moment it set eyes on us, it let out a murderous growl and sent a massive Posion spell whizzing in our direction, which we only just managed to dodge. When I looked back, it had torn up a huge boulder from the ground and was preparing to hurl it in our direction.
I’m not ashamed to say that we ran. We didn’t stop until we were some way back into the sewers, and were sure that the goblin wasn’t following us. “Phew,” Calvus panted. “Think that was one of the warchiefs?”
“If not, I dread to think what the actual chiefs are like.” I shook my head. “I’ll be honest, Calvus. I’m not sure we can handle that one. If it’s both of us against him, we’d have a chance, but if he has reinforcements…”
“Mmm. Think he has any weaknesses?”
I closed my eyes, trying to think. “Hang on. Do you think, if we both tried to lift that boulder, we could lob it at him?”
“Dunno. You’re the one with the super-strength gauntlets.”
“Well, it’s worth a try.” I patted my Amulet of Shadows. “Time to get transparent!”
Under cover of invisibility, we returned to the caves and crept up behind the warchief. It was pacing the corridors, glancing around suspiciously, and I couldn’t help feeling nervous in case it saw through the enchantment. As soon as its back was turned, Calvus and I seized our chance. We lifted the boulder, with a certain amount of grunting and groaning – luckily the Chameleon enchantment masked sound as well – and hurled it as hard as we could at the goblin’s head.
This was probably the hardest-headed creature you’d ever see, but even it couldn’t survive a blow like that. It went down like an ugly green bowling pin. Calvus and I exchanged a triumphant smile and headed quickly back to the sewers before any more goblins could arrive.
Not wanting to waste the charge on my amulet, I used an Invisiblility potion to scout out the rest of the cave. This time I went in the other direction, and luck was with me: the other warchief was only a short way away. But it had company.
“This one has a durzog with it,” I told Calvus once I got back to the sewers. “We can use the boulder trick again, but we need to get out quickly afterwards.”
We re-cast the Chameleon enchantment – not much charge left now, so we’d have to work fast – and managed to carry the boulder through the corridors to the other warchief. By the time we reached him, the spell was about to wear off.
“Quickly,” I whispered to Calvus. We lifted the boulder one last time and, with a final effort, heaved it at the goblin. As both of them smashed into the ground, the durzog whirled round with a ferocious growl, snapping at the air and straining to see where the boulder had come from.
At that exact moment, the enchantment wore off. Calvus, who was wearing my Divine Intervention amulet, quickly cast the spell – and I did the same with my Almsivi amulet. But before the spell could take effect, the durzog had launched itself straight at my face.
There was a moment of pain and sheer heart-stopping terror before the Intervention took effect. I found myself in the Temple courtyard, bleeding from deep scratches where the creature’s claws had dug into my face, and looking and smelling like – well, someone who’d been battling goblins in a sewer for two days. A few passers-by stared at me in astonishment and barely-disguised horror. I healed myself and stood there, feeling a bit embarrassed, waiting for Calvus to join me.
“Guess where I ended up?” he asked, when he finally arrived. “Right in the middle of the Palace. I’d forgotten that was where the nearest Imperial shrine would be.” Then he spotted the blood on my face. “You okay?”
“Just about. That thing nearly took my nose off.” I tried to wipe my face, and just ended up smearing the blood everywhere.
We didn’t go straight into the Temple – that might have looked suspicious. Besides, I needed a bath and everything else took a very definite back seat to that. By the time we’d got ourselves clean, fed and watered, I was ready to go back to bed.
“Just one thing,” Calvus said, as I settled back on my pillow. “Who’s Varvur? You said his name when you were having that ‘bad dream’.”
I sighed, steeling myself for the inevitable. “My fiancé.”
“The Redoran bigwig?” I nodded. “So why isn’t he here in Mournhold with you?”
“I told you. It’s complicated.”
“Well, I wouldn’t leave my girl to tackle the Dark Brotherhood by herself.” He shrugged. “Just saying.”
My eyes were beginning to smart, and I rolled over so that he wouldn’t see my expression. Why did he have to remind me of Varvur? Every time I thought of him now, I felt my throat tighten and my chest ache painfully.
I thought of him again after I got up and Calvus went to bed. I was quite used to being around hunky warrior guys, but seeing his shirtless body sprawled across the bed made me long for Varvur’s. It was hard to be away from my boyfriend for weeks on end, while sleeping in the same room as another attractive man. I wondered if Calvus did have a ‘girl’, and whether he was finding it hard as well.
After breakfast, we went to see Fedris Hler at the Temple. He seemed a little surprised to see us there at all, let alone to hear our story.
“You’ve killed the warchiefs and their Altmer trainers? And you live to tell the tale...” He nodded slowly. “Interesting. And surprising.”
I narrowed my eyes. “Surprising?”
“Perhaps I’ve underestimated you, Ada.” He shrugged. “Rest assured, it won’t happen again.”
I’ll say, I thought. Why couldn’t people get it through their heads that I was the Nerevarine? Okay, so that had been a tough mission, but it was a piece of cake compared to the Ash Vampires.
Hler cleared his throat. “Take this as a token of our Lady’s appreciation. Well done… and don’t forget to come back once you’re done with Helseth’s tasks. We may well have more work for you.”
Once outside, I opened up the money-pouch he’d given me, and could barely suppress a gasp. If I was correct, I counted 150 hundred-septim coins, gleaming brightly. Fifteen thousand septims.
“Zenithar be praised,” Calvus breathed. “That’s, what, seven-and-a-half thousand each? I could retire on that!”
He might have been exaggerating a bit, but I knew what he meant. Even considering how wealthy I was now, that amount of money was nothing to be sniffed at.
Calvus was pawing the coins greedily. “Screw Helseth and his chicken-feed. We need to do more work for this guy!”
“Oh, definitely.” I closed the pouch with a reluctant sigh. “We’d better see what the King’s people want first, though. Otherwise they might get suspicious.”
He nodded. “Do you think those actually were the warchiefs we killed? I mean, it’s not like they had it stamped on their foreheads.”
“Well, if they weren’t…” I sighed again. “Sod it. Hler can deal with them himself.”
We went our separate ways after that. Calvus wanted to kit himself out with some better armour, and I went to Sunel Hlas’ store to buy provisions. To my immense astonishment, the normally gloomy Sunel was all smiles and cheerfulness.
“Ada!” he exclaimed, as soon as I approached. “It’s good to see you again. I hope your business in Mournhold has prospered?”
“Er, yes,” I said, wondering just what kind of happy-potions he’d been guzzling. “Very much so.”
At that moment I heard soft footsteps on the floor above, and looked up to see Marena Gilnith standing at the top of the stairs, wearing a nightdress. When she saw me she retreated quickly, her cheeks turning pink. Oh.
“I take it the date went well?” I said to Sunel.
He shook his head. “Ada, I don’t know what to say. Marena is just what I needed in my life, but without your help, I’d have been too blind to see it. Thank you so much.”
“That’s quite alright,” I murmured. Another triumph for my matchmaking skills, I guess. Who’d have thought it?
Sunel was looking a bit embarrassed. “I know it’s wrong to offer you something, as if in payment, but I want you to take this. It’s sort of valuable, I guess, except that no one has ever wanted it, and… well, just take it and think of me. Or something.” He coughed. “I don’t know. I’m not very good at this sentimental stuff.”
He handed me a large, very weird-looking sword. “It’s called the BiPolar Blade,” he explained. “It’s got two different enchantments that cancel each other out. Not much use for fighting, but it’s quite famous, so it’s probably valuable? I… guess you could sell it, or something?”
“I’m sure I’ll find some use for it,” I said. “Thank you very much, Sunel.”
At that moment Marena appeared again on the stairs, wearing a robe, and beckoned me to join her. I went upstairs, feeling a bit uncomfortable about going into Sunel’s private quarters. But the look on her face made it all worthwhile.
“I have to thank you for helping me to find Sunel,” she said, in her soft voice. “At first, his attitude was a little off-putting. But as we talked, I really got to know him, and he’s just so kind. He’s had some bad experiences, but I know we can work through them.”
“I’m really happy for you, Marena,” I said sincerely. It was always nice to know I’d genuinely been able to help someone. Much better than lopping goblins’ heads off, even if it was less exciting. Sigh… maybe I ought to have chosen a different career?
I left the two of them together, hoping very much that they’d be happy. If I got the time, I might go to Mara’s shrine to say a quick prayer for them; meanwhile, I had revenge to plot. And relationship problems of my own to deal with. Sigh…
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